A cab driver's lament

Regulatory framework is to blame for a crappy cab system -- and companies that dodge safety guidelines aren't helping


OPINION I'm a San Francisco taxi driver. The reality on the streets is terrible.

Cab drivers are being squeezed from all sides. The Municipal Transportation Agency is part of the problem, because for the past year or so it has been energetically focused on enhancing the city's revenues by selling taxi medallions (for $200,000) and putting hundreds of new cabs in service, at the expense of drivers.

That happened to coincide with the introduction of Sidecar and Lyft, to which the MTA's response is painfully slow and ineffective. Neither problem is being resolved to the benefit of drivers.

SideCar and Lyft pretend that they're just folks doing community service car-pooling, while being backed by millions of venture capital dollars. They are trying to be taxi services while avoiding using the word "taxi" in their names. They don't want to talk about driver safety or insurance issues.

Cab drivers are heavily regulated for a reason — for your safety. There is accountability in the system.

There is no oversight of the new industry interlopers. The way these companies operate is not safe and not legal. When I went through my city-required week of driver training, photographing, fingerprinting, background check, and fee paying, everyone involved took it very seriously. If a cab driver screws up in any way, the company pulls him or her off the street.

Taxi drivers are held to a high standard of performance. We're not the pizza delivery guy who's now using his car to "ride-share" people around. Most of the time that won't matter — until it really does matter. With SideCar and Lyft, if something goes wrong, you'll find yourself with no protection and nowhere to turn.

I'm a night shift driver, and let me make it clear: Driving a taxi is a very hard job. You have to know the city, you have to deal with all kinds of people, have the patience of Job, make no mistakes, and be okay with little better than minimum wage — although there are no wages for cab drivers, what you make is whatever business you can manage to find — with no guarantees or benefits. The driver is the sole merchant, and he or she takes all the risks.

The regulatory framework needs to catch up with the technology, which is here to stay. The larger cab companies already use GPS technology. Luxor uses the "Taxi Magic" or "Cabulous" app to connect cabs to people who need rides.

But the taxi industry is already in a situation where, as a Guardian editorial noted, "too many cabs chasing too little money leads to bad behavior — and bad drivers." The cease and desist order against the interlopers is being ignored. The fines imposed on them are being challenged and appealed.

So the industry is dysfunctional, with lawyers on all sides making things worse — and the drivers are the only ones who are suffering the consequences.

John Horn drives for Luxor Cab



John, I guess you just are not getting it.
There are problems with the current taxi situation. I also am a former taxi driver who worked for National Cab Company.

I was involved in an accident that was no fault of my own. The cab company did not carry uninsured motorist coverage and no air bags deployed in my cab. The accident has left me seriously injured. I looked for answers regarding how a taxi company could operate without full coverage insurance. I found out that cab companies are not required to have uninsured motorist nor are cabs required to have air bags because they are municipal vehicles. We really have some outdated laws and regulations within the taxi industry that need to be addressed for public and driver safety! I am not the only person where this type of unfortunate accident has occurred while as a driver or passenger.

As for your statement of accountability for the taxi industry. There really is no accountability in the taxi industry, if anything the taxi industry is a rogue system with cab company owners doing whatever they want including illegally collecting deposits and charging back gates to name a few.

John in addition cab drivers have abused many in the city by not taking credit cards to avoid having a paper trail to pay taxes, not taking passengers where they need to go in the city, treating passengers with disrespect especially women and people in the LGBT community ( in other words acting in a discriminatory manner not acceptable to the public ) If a driver companies about a car having an issue with brakes or odors, they may get fired by the cab companies.

I would also like to comment on your thought of taxi drivers being held to a high level of performance. I have read and with you working at Luxor must have heard the same thing where a driver in an accident at Eddie and Larkin caused an accident by running a red light and killing a pedestrian had a criminal background. Safety does not seem to be of interest in the taxi industry but only politics.

John from my perspective companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar exist because there is no safety in the taxi industry and a person gets blacklisted from the industry when they speak out about issues to make it better for the cab drivers. In my case I am unable to get a job as a taxi driver again because I spoke out about the issues of not having air bags nor uninsured motorist. I have applied at Luxor on two occasions and am told I can start in a couple days, but then never hear back from anyone. John the taxi industry is old and outdated system that needs a change, the industry is so filled with corruption and contempt that the taxi industry in San Francisco will not change on its own. Maybe with companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar people can get into an insured and safe vehicle for once and not have to listen to a cab driver complain about credit cards or how bad their night was all night. Cab drivers have done this to themselves and need to stop blaming everyone else for their problems! John you can reach out to me through Facebook if you would like to discuss this further.

Posted by Dean Clark on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

"cabs are not required to have air bags because they are municipal vehicles."

That is ABSURD!!!!!

Taxis are not municipal vehicles. Unless there is something I don't know about the city owning and insuring taxis.

No state or political sub-division of any state shall have any authority to set standards inferior to the federal standards, that means illegal partitions too. The feds require airbags, nobody can waive that requirement.

see steven-crowells.blogspot.com for lots of info on how dangerous and illegal partitions are.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 9:11 am

But you will find different types inside economic hotels and hence, before booking one, the travellers
should get their amount of energy in knowing in
detail in regards to the respective hotels. The rooms which lovely decorated include en
suite bathrooms, soaking tubs, marble vanities, showers, televisions, fireplaces, and telephones.
Once known because the Castaways, this Las Vegas hotel might be a Hawaiian-themed, 3,000 room hotel that's all the an entertainment complex
as lodging.

Posted by Nadine on Sep. 28, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

The consumer's lament:

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar offer good services. You connect via the Net. They come in 5 minutes.

At the end, you "review" the driver, and he/she reviews you as a customer.

No 20 minute scramble looking for a cab.
No calling (by phone) for a cab, and no one tells you that the cabbie doest not intend to show.

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar services are better than you services.

Ty learning from them.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

The problem is that there are major conflicts of intrest in the
taxi company/city regulated/ medallion system where the
taxi companies tell drivers where,when,how, and what
but still claim that they are independent. The safety issues
are rampant but the level of accountability is low!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not to forget that the audit of all of the above is whay over do

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

Dispatchers are running a racket. Beat up vehicles, inflated gates, smelly cabs, unaccountable managements city regulators suck. Because the drivers are allowing this to happen. They allow themselves to be the door-mat for all the above to go home at the end of the day with $10-$11 in their pockets. That's if...?

Drivers why do you allow the high turn over? Despite yourself because there is nothing else you can do. Plus your not wanting to educate yourself is why you and your family still poor. Myself included.

The drivers of all nationalities need to stop this Mafia-Operation only by having an independent dispatch system that they hire, pay and manage in rotation. All the drivers have to do is to take the dispatch and vehicle assignment from the companies and run their own. After all they own the medallions. Then fire the dispatchers and the management and run your own business. Get a decent automated dispatch just like Uber has and pay that system 20%. You will be better off, in better and cleaner fleets, and will make more money than you are making now.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

When common people can't afford taxi cabs, try Phorego

Phorego - The new kid on the block, is available on 3 continents, in 5 languages for PCs, Tablets and Smartphones. Allow public to share rides, allows businesses, universities and communities to create their own rideshare groups with carpooling/vanpooling features. No fees.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

The saddest thing about Lyft, Sidecar, and other "evolved" non-professional rideshare services is that the extent of the hoodwink and drinking of the tech-industry kool-aide will likely only be dispelled when someone is killed in an accident and the publicity generated from that sheds light on the fact that the "insurance" held by Lyft is nothing short of a sham -- if it is in fact one million dollars (and not just a million in the pocket of the PUC) it's at most a million dollars in total, that's it for covering everyone, NOT a million dollars PER passenger like you have in a cab. There have already been some serious accidents, just without fatalities: a motorcyclist slammed into on Lombard when the Lyft driver ran a red, a bicyclist hit in the mission. Accidents happen. It's only a matter of time.

If you want to order a professional, fully insured and protected ride via your smartphone, try the Flywheel app. There's even a coupon going around for 10 bucks off your fare: the code for that is NHH29J (can be used once per person).

At least until the owners of these app-based rideshare services fess up and pay for the full professional driving coverage that the public deserves, you're risking life and limb, literally, if you hail a ride in one of these "rebel" services. The truth is, they don't want to pay for it, and you ride at your own risk. It's in the usage agreement. Look into it. Don't believe the hype!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2013 @ 11:11 am

Also from this author

  • City College will appeal

    "City College neither ignored nor fought ACCJC's recommendations, as many people wish we had."

  • Transforming Pride in our schools

    It takes more than a one-time discussion or film screening to support queer youth

  • Developers should pay -- on time

    It's boom time -- a good moment to end bust-time business breaks